President Benigno Aquino III asked his close chum Rico Puno to resign after the President personally did a Google search and discovered that the Galil assault rifles Puno had helped arrange to buy for the national police were overpriced.
Aquino told Filipino reporters at the APEC conference in Vladivostok that the indicative bid price for the Galil firearms was around P80,000 per unit:
"Nag-Google search ako ngayon, at doon ko nga nakitang ang daming below 1,000 dollars, apparently."
He said he had ordered the purchase stopped, pending investigation. He also indicated during the press conference that he expected a resignation letter from Puno as Undersecretary for police affairs of the Department of Interior and Local Governments “but I don’t have it.”
During the Validvostok press briefing, Aquino also indicated he is an intensive user of Google’s search engine. He explained why he surfed online regarding this particular arms deal:
"Yung sa rifle hindi ako satisfied, ano. Nag-umpisa kasi ‘yon na napakaraming bidders para at least—I think the last time they told me about it was seven bidders were interested, they [not audible on tape] documents.
"Yung actual bidding naging isa. ‘Yung presyo ‘pag nag-search sa internet napababa nila ‘yung… Parang may na-acquire previous to this ‘yung contract na in-execute before we step into office, P150,000. ‘Yung indicative price nila naging P119,000. Tapos parang ito yatang kino-consider nila is now what – 80,000 per unit."
Aquino said the DILG had originally said they wanted to buy M4 carbines (shortened versions of the M-16 assault rifle) but that somehow the order had changed to the Galil rifle:
"Pero tumingin ako sa internet dahil noong nag-umpisa ito about two years ago, mga 2,000 dollars ’yung gusto nilang M4 e, so roughly tama yung presyo. Pero pag tumingin ka sa internet ngayon, you can get it for as little as 800 plus dollars, e. So 800 times 40 will give you 32, ‘di ba, and 32 and 80 are very far off. Tapos yung the rifle itself was not what they told me they wanted.
"So tinanong ko sila, 'Saan napunta lahat nung mga ibang interesado?'
"Kasi even two years ago, there was allegedly an offer from a foreign country to set up a factory here to produce the rifle they wanted, and at the time that it was selling for 2,000 dollars, they were offering it for 40,000 pesos dahil dito ipro-produce.
"So sabi ko, “Bakit ‘yung may nag-alok sa inyong 40, bakit itong 80 na lang ang natira diyan? Bakit nung hindi nag-meet doon sa gusto niyong model, bakit niyo pinatuloy pa?”
"So ito ‘yung subject na… And I think instructed Secretary Robredo to look into it to—para lahat na. Saan ba ’yung competence nung mga miyembro nung [Glock?], saan ba ’yung technical group dito.
"Parang I wanted to know exactly why—’yung parang simple question lang doon, “Bakit walang tumingin sa internet at nag-check lang."
He likened the firearms deal to ordering food:
"In-order mo hamburger dumating hotdog. Bakit hindi ka nagrereklamo."
PNoy also said it was he who had instructed the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo to stop the bidding and to investigate the bidding process of the firearms.
Before I go on, I must confess that it was commenters on this website who had urged me to find out what I could on “Puno-gate.” The commenters on Cyber Plaza Miranda – the growing community of Filipinos congregating on this website – were very much worried and adamant and even angry at what was taking place.
And so I decided to drop an article I was writing on Senator Vicente Sotto III and concentrate on this as I realized that this could be the Aquino government’s most serious scandal yet. And one that could seriously dent its credibility if it failed to adequately explain what had happened.
I spent Sunday and this morning asking around.
As a journalist, I believe that facts always come first and any opinion must be based on facts.
Somehow, one of my sources heard my plea for ‘just the facts’ and shared with me a portion of PNoy’s actual press conference in Vladivostok dealing with Puno-gate.
For easier reading, I have taken the liberty to break up Pnoy’s answers into paragraphs.